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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

The Issue of Pseudepigraphy.

1.

Many feel uncomfortable with the view that the letter was not composed by Paul himself. Since the letter claims to be written by Paul, does the denial of Pauline authorship not amount to a questioning of the letter's integrity? And does an author who falsely claims to be someone else not forfeit our confidence in what he has written? The issue of pseudepigraphy (falsely attributed writing) seems to undermine any claim to inspiration or canonical authority for the letter.

2.

The problem is serious for today's use of such a letter since it seems to attribute an immoral motive to the real author. We today take for granted the conventions of copyright and that plagiarism is unacceptable. When someone writes in another's name, therefore, we naturally assume an intention on his part to deceive, to claim falsely an authority for his writing which he himself did not possess. It needs to be remembered, however, that the conventions of copyright are a relatively recent formulation (a consequence of the invention of printing). At the time when Ephesians was written there was no clear or legal conception of authorial ownership of a piece of writing. Once written, a document was in the public domain and could be used and reused, excerpted and expanded without attribution of source and without any thought of wrongdoing. In the NT itself we may cite Matthew's use of Mark or 2 Peter's use of Jude.

3.

More to the point, the history of the formation of the biblical books themselves is a clear indication that disciples and successors of the originator of highly valued tradition were able to develop that tradition in the name of its originator. Writings such as the Pentateuch and Isaiah are generally recognized to be the work of several hands over a lengthy period. The Wisdom of Solomon and the corpus known as 1 Enoch could be attributed to those named as authors long after their death, without any thought of deceit. The teaching of Jesus could be elaborated differently by the different Evangelists without any sense of impropriety.

4.

Ephesians makes best sense within this tradition. A close associate or disciple of Paul, who stood within the tradition begun by Paul and was recognized to do so, was seen to represent the Pauline tradition after Paul's death and was able to re-express it in some measure in his own terms. And he did so in Paul's name, without deceit; his words were acknowledged to be appropriate sentiments to ascribe to Paul. In other words, Ephesians probably represents the Pauline heritage some little time after Paul's death as seen from within. It expresses, we may say, the transition from Paul to Pauline.

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